5 Eco-Living Myths Debunked (You Will Be Surprised)

Marketers & Greenwashing:

“Greenwashing” is a term used to describe a deceptive marketing strategy that may persuade a consumer to believe that a product or action is beneficial to or not harmful to the environment. The truth is that many companies may be greenwashing whether it is intentional or not.

Unfortunately, greenwashing leaves many individuals who have good intent with a false impression of doing good. From my career in the Packaging manufacturing industry, I'm fortunate enough to have had a tough-to-swallow dose of reality when it comes to environmentally conscious decisions. For this reason, I wanted to share with you all and hopefully lend a hand in doing some good!

I’d also like to add that despite my own personal education on the topic, I am not perfect when it comes to practicing eco-living. I am always trying to think of ways to be better- a new diy, a way to upcycle would-have-been-waste, and recycling all that I can. Always remember that forming long term habits is difficult and any change you can commit to is better than none. Happy eco living!

 

Colorful tin can planters on wood wall

 

Myth #1: “You need to buy all new stuff in order to go green.”

Bamboo toothbrushes in ceramic jar

False. Buying all new stuff means replacing perfectly good, functioning stuff you already own.

Example: Buying a brand-new bamboo hairbrush does not magically make your plastic hairbrush disappear. In fact, it does the opposite. The plastic hairbrush that you already own is most likely made of multiple different materials and will not be processed in a recycling stream. Thus, if you replace it, you will probably end up throwing it into a landfill.

The Solution:

Don’t get me wrong- I love new stuff as much as anybody else, but maybe wait until you’re in the market for new stuff to buy new stuff. 

Myth #2: “If it’s biodegradable, it can’t be bad.”

working hands in soil

False. If it's biodegradable it can be good ... but it can also be bad.

In order for certain materials that are labeled as biodegradable to truly degrade, they must be exposed to air, something that tightly packed landfills simply don’t have enough of. This may be the case in some specific composting environments, but definitely is not in the standard American Landfill.

People also place their biodegradable products in recycling bins with good intent. The truth is that some recycling facilities are limited in what bioplastics they are able to recycle. If a recycling facility is unable to accomodate recycling a bioplastic, it can contaminate the recycling steam. 

The Solution:

When encountering something that is labeled as biodegradable, do some research on what your local recycling facility is capable of successfully recycling. If your recycling facility is unable to process it, find out more information about what your composting facilities allow.

Myth #3: “Paper is always better than plastic.”

white paper folds

False. Both have pros and cons.

Plastic generally takes less resources to produce. Plastic is water resistant & won’t fail when holding steamy food, carrying beverages with condensation on a hot day, or when exposed to the elements a rainy day in the city. Because of its durability, it can be repurposed for different uses. Less plastic is required for the same durability as paper. Most plastic materials are recyclable (even films in the right facility). However, Plastic is generally made of petroleum, a nonrenewable resource and it takes far longer to break down than paper.

Paper is made from trees, a renewable resource that is harvested sustainably today. Although uncoated paper with long fibers is widely accepted as recyclable, coated paper (think materials like high end designer boutique bags with rope handles or photo paper), is not recyclable because it is often considered to be soiled or a hybrid blend of plastic and paper. Because it takes more paper to achieve durability, it impacts shipping weight and uses more emissions to get paper from point A to Point B.

The Solution:

Choose neither when possible (reduce). Use your best judgement and consider how you will be using the product, if you plan on reusing it, and at if it will be recyclable at the end of its life. 

 

Myth #4: “Glass is better than plastic.”

vintage bottle on urban city beach

False. Both have pros and cons.

Both are recyclable (for the most part). I find that often times in this discussion, especially as is involves food packaging, BPA and safe consumption are brought into into the conversation. PET & HDPE do not contain BPA and are the plastics most often used in food and beverage.

Plastic is much more durable than glass, which is fragile (I’ve broken my fair share of glass water bottles). Plastic is lighter than glass, meaning glass uses more emissions in shipment.

Glass has a higher value perception. This means you are less likely to discard it because it feels expensive. and meaningful. You may want to reuse glass objects for DIY’s (think oui yogurt or baby food jars).

The Solution:

Choose neither when possible (reduce). Use your best judgement and consider how you will be using the product, if you plan on reusing it, and at if it will be recyclable at the end of its life.

 

Myth #5: “Metal is always bad.”

DIY upcycle suzuki oil tin planter

False. Metal hase great durability making it the perfect candidate for reuse & recycling.

Metals are typically non renewable resources and take a long time (50+ years) to decompose. And this fact gives it a bad reputation. However, metal is also infinitely recyclable. Metal also has a high value perception and can make great DIY’s. Remember grandma's cookie tin filled with sewing supplies?

The Solution:

Like spidey powers, with great metal comes great responsibility. Be sure to reuse when possible. If reusing is not an option, plan on getting it to a recycling bin.

 

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Photos Courtesy of Bernard Hermant, Sara Groblechner, JJ Ying, Conscious Design, Macau Photo Agency, Adolfo Félix, and Katrin Hauf.


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